Saturday, November 22, 2008

Helen Fills My iPod -- and Guns N' Roses Fills My Soda Can

In 1997, I gave up on trying to keep track of what’s cool when even U2, who I had thought were not only cool (back in the 80s and early 90s, at least) but popular, had an ABC concert special and it got nearly the lowest ratings of any broadcast in the network’s history — the producer told me so herself when I bumped into her in the ABC elevator. Meanwhile, boy bands and Britney were conquering the world.

I began wishing a few years after that that I had a young hipster who could tell me whether there’s better stuff out there than the handful of alternative rock things I’ve heard and liked in the 00s — first, the ones that got big enough to attract mainstream attention (like White Stripes, Strokes, Hives, Sounds, Surferosa, Franz Ferdinand, etc.), soon followed by all the twee stuff I learned about in part via Michael Malice (My Favorite, Stars, etc.) — when I wasn’t listening to the hip dive-bar-like sounds of, with its mix of everything from Pixies to Patsy Cline (or my channels — I find Echo and the Bunnymen works really well, as does My Favorite, fittingly).

Then, in the past year, I started thinking that if I ever get around to filling the iPod that my friends Paul and Jenny Taylor gave me for being one of their groomsmen in 2007, I should just skip downloading my old favorites and instead put all the stuff I’d heard but not acquired in the past decade on it, giving me a fresh start in life, musically speaking.

Well, I have cut out the middle man (namely me) in the plan to get a young, hip person to tell me what’s cool so I’ll know what to put on the iPod: The young, hip person has offered to fill it directly. My girlfriend Helen has a vast knowledge of music from country to punk, and luckily (?) her tastes overlap substantially with my own (I mean, despite the country), so she’s going to educate me by putting dozens of things on the previously-empty iPod herself this very weekend (thanks!).


Meanwhile, I may have to buy one last physical CD before the era of doing that officially ends.

It just so happens that this same weekend that Helen’s filling the iPod (interrupted by her paleocon road trip to a Mencken conference in Maryland, with her fellow Paleo Riders being Richard Spencer and John Derbyshire, Taki having bailed), Guns N’ Roses is finally releasing its fourteen-years-in-the-making album Chinese Democracy.

I need to hold it in my hands, not just hear it, to be sure it’s real. As Chuck Klosterman rightly says, this long-imagined album is like a “unicorn” for some of us of a certain age (speaking of which, luckily for young Helen, the prospect of a new G N’ R album also makes me feel like I, too, am in my early twenties, so it’ll be almost like we’re the same age when we see my parents for Thanksgiving).

One of my old G N’ R-loving college pals (many of them comedy writers back then and many also libertarians), Christine Caldwell Ames, who pointed out the Klosterman review to some of us, notes that the G N’ R album’s release means that the makers of Dr. Pepper are officially planning to make good on their promise to provide everyone in America who asks with a free soda, in honor of this long-awaited event.

And since I’ve developed a small caffeine habit over the past couple years for the first time in my life, I face the delightful prospect of listening to G N’ R, while getting my caffeine fix, after learning what’s on my iPod, thanks to my cool conservative-yet-punk girlfriend.


I haven’t heard Helen praise G N’ R, but she does display a greater admiration, born partly of Nietzsche, for violence and emphatic tribal self-assertion than I do — indeed, that’s why she too thinks there are conservative/punk parallels (not quite my own reasons). So she should appreciate why Axl’s convincingly angry lyrics and downright dangerous attitude were a fun occasional escape for my largely well-behaved college circle.

And after all, the first rock video Helen ever recommended to me was “Kiss with a Fist” by Florence and the Machine, which is only conservative if your idea of conservatism involves thinking people should be thick-skinned enough to put up with the occasional beating — and she has, after all, said relatively nice things about those Jezebel controverts who pooh-poohed the emotional effects of rape. But I wouldn’t do her any harm, good utilitarian that I am (and the learning isn’t all one way — I’m the one who convinced her to read her obvious kindred spirit Florence King).

Speaking of philosophical differences, she recently blogged — in two parts — about odd things said at a recent ISI conference about where the future of conservatism lies, and the entry posted in between those two parts by one of her co-bloggers also happens to be an amusing reminder that I shouldn’t put too much hope in the idea of Newt Gingrich being a nice, safe figure around whom to rebuild a fusionist alliance.

No movement is too small to have its factional infights, though, as I’ll continue to demonstrate in the weeks ahead, even while gradually converting every last person in the world to my point of view, though it may take weeks — possibly months.

That Florence and the Machine video above probably won’t make feminists happy, incidentally, especially coercion-wary ones — unless they have good senses of irony. (Like I said, it won’t make them happy.) So to compensate, let’s declare December the “Month of Feminism” on this blog, followed immediately by the “Month of Liberty (i.e., Property)” in January.

P.S. G N’ R listeners might like to know that the talented and witty Regina Spektor’s song “On the Radio” is the only song I’ve ever heard with lines about listening to G N’ R, specifically “Novemeber Rain,” which gets rhymed with “That solo’s really long/ But it’s a nice refrain.” And that solo starts with what I think my friend Dave Whitney once declared the sweetest note in the history of rock. Dave says stuff like that.


Mark said...

But how’s the album???

I’m not sure what kind of punk rock you like, but if you like the musical styling of The Cramps and early David Bowie, you might want to give “The Fratelli’s” a listen.

Todd Seavey said...

Haven’t heard the C.D. CD _yet_ — but I do like the Fratellis, having promised while on a trip to Scotland a year and a half ago that I’d listen to them when I got back to NYC (they’re a Scottish band), to compensate for the perhaps excessively-American act of purchasing a Velvet Underground album at a record store in Glasgow. Global commerce in action or an act of local loyalty? A topic for discussion at the paleos’ next gathering.